As I shuffle through the hallways with a herd of loud, eager students ready to leave school, I relive the panic felt during the math test that I didn’t finish.
My breathing spikes, my lungs close, lights flash before my eyes. Time slows down and people begin moving too quickly, talking too loudly, my skin becomes hot and tingly. My vision becomes blurred from tears filling my eyes. I dart into the nearest bathroom to catch my breath. I am experiencing my first ever anxiety attack.
Stress: little weeds implanted in our minds, determined to kill our sanity. Never stop, they say. Be the best. Get into the best college. Do hours upon hours of community service. Get an A on that test. Do a sport. Be a leader in clubs. Try harder, work harder, do better.
These thoughts swirl in my mind constantly, taunting me. Everything I do now is leading to my future; where I will go to college, where I will get a job, where I will settle down, and even the quality of living I will have. But I’m not even of legal age yet.
Dr. Judy Schaechter is a pediatrician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Miami Department of Pediatrics and Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson Hospital. Her patients range from 10 to 25 years of age.
“About 20 percent of my patients have some degree of anxiety, mild or more severe. Everyone has stress. Stress isn’t always bad for you. It can motivate you. It can encourage you. Stress in short bursts or low doses can be ok. Chronic stress, stress that causes illness, dysfunction or disability, stress that’s toxic is what we want to avoid and sometimes treat,” Schaechter said.
For most students, the stress she talks about comes mainly from school. It seems as if I’m being pounded day after day with tests and quizzes. Recently EOCs or finals for every class have been added to school curriculum by our ingenious governor, Rick Scott. It’s the icing on the cake to students’ overload of stress. Students now joke about needing a stress ball.
My friends and their friends flock to therapists and psychiatrists because they need to. A phenomenon not as widespread when our parents were our age; students are driven to extreme measures to try to reduce stress. This is what life has come to; weekdays being stolen by textbooks and weekends by therapists.
“Symptoms of stress vary with the person. Too many people don’t cope with stress well and turn to addictions or other unhealthy behaviors. Some may turn to drugs, alcohol or sex to cover up their feelings,” Schaechter said.
Adderall is considered just that extra step to make sure your concentrated on the AP exam. Marijuana is used afterwards to de-stress. They are both used with astounding frequency and no question at all.
The best way to cope with stress is exercise. Even active breaks every 45-60 minutes of studying will help reduce stress.
Dr. Schaechter advises to eat right and drink lots of water; avoid caffeinated soda, coffee, tea, and energy drinks because caffeine makes everyone anxious.
There is always more work we can do, according to teachers, administration, parents, and college advisors. But when will enough for them be too much for us?
When I have another anxiety attack? When I take a four hour nap when I get home from school? When I’m on my third cup of coffee in the morning?
How much of my sanity must be taken away before it is recognized that the weeds have suffocated my entire garden?
Being enrolled in a prestigious school, such as MAST, is a blessing and a curse. You are sure to get a good education, but at what cost?